WNBA star DiDi Richards walks the runway at the Dur Doux fashion show during New York Fashion Week this month. (Photo: Shannon Finney via Getty Images)
NEW YORK — Tuesday marks Game 2 of the WNBA Finals series, with the Las Vegas Aces battling against the Connecticut Sun for the coveted championship title. As the door closes on another season, players showing off pregame fits in their WNBA tunnel entrances will come to an end. However, the perennial discussion regarding fashion’s failure to capitalize on female athletes’ style continues.
For this New York Fashion Week, which runs until Wednesday, mother-daughter label Dur Doux sought to change that. Designers Cynthia and Najla Burt facilitated a unique partnership with the league for its spring-summer 2023 collection, titled Paradis Palmiers. After making her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit debut in May, WNBA star DiDi Richards walked the Dur Doux show Monday, supported by New York Liberty teammate Michaela Onyenwere and Los Angeles Sparks guard Lexie Brown in the front row.
Created in 2012 while Najla Burt attended Parsons School of Design, Dur Doux marries bold avant-garde fashion with elegant, luxury sensibilities. The brand, whose name means “hard soft” in French, merges wearability and whimsy throughout its designs.
Dur Doux made its breakout appearance last year at New York Fashion Week’s spring-summer 2022 season. In February of this year, the label’s fall-winter 2022 collection was presented at Black in Fashion Council showrooms. According to Najla Burt, that was when Dur Doux’s relationship with the WNBA started.
Cynthia Burt (left) and daughter Najla pose on the runway at the Dur Doux show during New York Fashion Week this month. (Photo: Shannon Finney via Getty Images)
“The WNBA reached out and said: ‘We love your brand. We’ve been reading about your story, and we’d love to just participate,’” she said.
“Initially, it was just to have two stars be able to sit the show. Then this season we said, ‘How would you all feel about having one of the players walk the show?’”
Fan favorite Richards was one of the first names that came to mind for Burt and her mother. In the New York Liberty guard’s NYFW debut, she strutted down the runway in a vibrant tangerine orange maxi dress with a daring slit down the side, along with gold bangles and seashell hoop earrings. For the Burts, color is integral to their label.
“Part of our brand DNA is being from Florida, being in that beautiful tropical Caribbean-type environment,” the younger Burt said. “[This season’s collection] was inspired by the Florida palm, the state emblem. I just remember growing up and seeing that palm every single place that we went to.”
Oscillating between grounded, earthy neutrals and vibrant tones, Dur Doux’s 30-look collection consisted of sensual silhouettes, free-flowing skirts, dresses, tunics and feather trim. An homage to Burt’s Tallahassee upbringing, Dur Doux aimed to encapsulate a vacation feel with Paradis Palmiers.
Burt, whose sister played basketball growing up and father earned a collegiate athletic scholarship, said that she and her mother were thrilled to be working with Richards and hopes this is the beginning of a long-standing relationship with the WNBA.
From struggling to find pants for tall girls at the mall to becoming one of the league’s style icons, Richards said that walking in New York Fashion Week has been a dream come true. Some of her style inspirations are the singer Rihanna, entertainer Teyana Taylor and other women who “push the issue.” The 23-year-old WNBA star wants this moment to be a catalyst for more designers to amplify the league’s fashion capacity.
“It’s definitely a missed opportunity for a lot of people that aren’t tapping into the WNBA. We’re all kind of fashionistas, whether that be wearing sweats or we’re the girly girls who like to wear dresses and skirts,” Richards said. “It’s exciting to see the different ways that ‘The W’ amplifies fashion, but I’m proud that I’m able to be that person for little girls like me.”
Richards (right) and WNBA teammate Michaela Onyenwere attend New York Fashion Week on Saturday in New York City. (Photo: Gonzalo Marroquin via Getty Images)
She continued: “I went through this phase where I wore only sweats. My style is baggy bottoms, tight top, and I think what kind of made me that way is because nothing would fit me tight. If it fit my length, it wouldn’t fit my width. If it fit my width, then it wouldn’t fit my length. Now, I think it’s a lot, lot better — or I just found the right places.”
These days, Richards frequents clothing outlets such as PrettyLittleThing for its expansive tall line, as well as Nasty Gal and others. Upon learning that she would be walking in the show, she dove headfirst into research about what modeling entails and New York Fashion Week at large. When her friends Onyenwere and Brown heard the news, it made perfect sense to them why Richards was plucked for the opportunity.
“It wasn’t a shock because if you know DiDi, this is something that she’d want to do. She was a Sports Illustrated model just months ago. This is inside of her realm, and I’m really proud of her. Now that I’ve seen exactly what [Dur Doux is] able to produce, this is exactly where she needs to be,” said Onyenwere.
And Richards is not the only WNBA star who has made a professional foray into fashion. On the same evening as the Dur Doux show, Dallas Wings forward Isabelle Harrison walked for Kim Shui. South Carolina Gamecocks alumna Destanni Henderson has also made waves with her WNBA draft suit and label Clothing by HP.
Los Angeles Sparks player Lexie Brown shows off her pregame outfit before competing against the Connecticut Sun on Aug. 11 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Juan Ocampo via Getty Images)
Brown said that it’s time for brands to invest in WNBA’s untapped potential, from fashion to beauty and lifestyle.
“There’s a lot of women in this league that just look really put together all the time, whether they have a shaved head, dreads, braids, weave, wigs,” Brown said.
“We have everything in the league, and we all manage to keep it looking really good while we’re working out every day. I’m like, why is that not being utilized? People are playing with full faces of makeup. We have lashes, girls have their hair done, and we’re not looking crazy on the court.”
Along with Brown and Onyenwere, Richards said she hopes that the WNBA continues to grow in the right direction and brands can bridge the gap between fashion and the league at large. Collaborations like this may be the first step.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.